The who knew what when aspects of the Orkopoulos case are dominating the papers this morning – but one vital and associated matter has been overlooked. Sussex Street’s writ doesn’t run in Newcastle and the Hunter.

The area is a stronghold of the left. The local Labor Party up there has its own culture and traditions. Shameless nepotism is blatantly practised. If it tolerates these, who knows what else it stays silent about.

It’s a world of its own. And that means it’s quite possible that Sussex Street and the bruvvers wouldn’t be fully aware of what was happening in the region.

Russ Hinze is supposed to have said of Keith Wright: “I knew he liked skirt, but I thought he liked them out of school uniform”. NSW Premier Morris Iemma and his spin doctors may well be refining a similar line.

It’s arguable – just – that this isn’t a Rex Jackson case. The bruvvers were aware of his gambling problems.

Labor tribalism – and the primitive customs of the different tribes – may give Iemma a defence. But tribalism and the same customs have also helped create the current dilemmas he now confronts – a Cabinet full of accident prone duds.

If Iemma wants to save his skin he needs to act as a leader rather than bowing to the will of the tribal council.

There are a few competent people on his backbench. He needs to promote them, fast, no matter what the faction heavies say.

Peter Fray

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